|John Freeman: Fair Weather Road 2013|
Does this image
remind you of Alberta or what?
The old building is now being torn down, but the gallery is still available in the Taylor Family Digital Library and that is where I met my friend, Fazeela. I checked the gallery out the day before so that I knew it would be worth our collective time.
If you have been to the Nickle you will know that one of their mandates is to collect Alberta works. Three new pieces caught my attention.
The first was rough fescue – 3 specimens of it hanging from the ceiling so that the work was right at eye level. Three clumps of rough fescue, a natural prairie grass, had been dug up.
One was in pristine condition.
One specimen had been eaten, so the part that was above ground was half gone.
And one specimen had been overgrazed, so there wasn’t much left.
|Photo credit: for.gov.bc.ca|
The roots of the first, maybe four feet long. The roots of the second, maybe only two feet long. Perhaps only 12 inches of root on the last plant.
Fazeela and I studied the art piece for a long time, my hands locked to my side because there was so much desire in me to touch the root systems – kind of to check that what I was seeing was real and not a mirage. Maybe I wanted to say to the third, I know, I know, this is terrible, you have been used up and you aren't going to live much longer.
Fazeela asked me if I grew up on a farm.
“Why do you know so much about this,” she continued as I chatted to her about the risks in over grazing.
line drawing“I don’t know. I think I am channeling my father. He would talk to us in the car as we drove. He loved the Alberta prairie and he must have been deepening our childhood understanding of why it was important to him.”
We moved on to study a pictorial exhibit of a man who builds eight feet of a white picket fence every year, extending it west and never maintaining what has gone before. He started the project in 1990. Now in 2013 there is one extended print, I am guessing 24 feet long, though I may be underestimating its length. At any rate, Fazeela and I walked back and forth for a long time studying the deterioration of the fence and the encroachment of the prairie on its earliest pieces.
I don’t know if it was because our time was up, or because the subject was distasteful, but the third exhibit I wanted to see again is a video of a cow in an abattoir – the cow’s last six minutes of life. How Albertan is that! You can sit in the darkened room and watch the cow in the pen and the man holding the gun on the left of the screen. Fazeela passed on sitting there for six minutes. I had taken the time the day before, I did want to chat with her after she had seen it. Get her reaction. Maybe next time.
|Invitation to the Nickel|